War declared on Finsbury Park’s legion of fast food and gambling shops as £1m makeover plan gathers pace

Cllr Andy Hull, chairman of the Finsbury Park Regeneration Board

Cllr Andy Hull, chairman of the Finsbury Park Regeneration Board - Credit: Archant

War was declared on Finsbury Park’s legion of fast food, gambling and payday loan shops this week as a regeneration project which could see more than £1 million ploughed into the area got underway.

Highbury West Cllr Andy Hull, chair of Finsbury Park Regeneration Board, this week vowed to transform the “ugly, dark and dangerous” town centre while promising an investment drive away from more fried chicken and betting shops.

The project, agreed upon between Islington, Hackney and Haringey Councils’ leaders last summer, will see the railway bridges receive a makeover and be turned into a blank canvass for public street art.

More than 1,000 sq m of blank canvas could be created if a request to turn the underground station tunnel from Seven Sisters Road into a canvass is also given the go-ahead.

The bridges’ drainage and pigeon-proofing will also be beefed-up to prevent passers-by being showered.

In a bid to transform the most deprived ward in the borough, Islington has ring fenced £500,000 for the project and hopes to see the amount matched at least once over.

A consultation has been launched for local businesses and residents to say how they want the money and future funds to be spent over the next three years.

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Cllr Hull said: “Sorting out the bridges is really important and the area under them. They give the wrong message out – that it is a run down area and the local authority hasn’t cared for it as much as it should.

“It looks like an area that the authorities have neglected. It’s ugly, dark and it’s dangerous.

“We want to turn Finsbury Park into an area which holds excitement, energy and welcomes people, not just somewhere you wait to change busses and trains, but somewhere people want to spend some time.”

A mosaic will decorate the entrance to Gillespie Park while a “vista” will be created so the green space can be seen from the underground station.

Art Council England have donated £60,000 towards the canvass project.

Meanwhile, more jobs and affordable housing is set to be created as the council looks to attract private investment from the makeover. A new traders association will also be created in a bid to boost the variety of shops on Blackstock, Seven Sisters and Stroud Green roads.

Cllr Hull added: “It is in an area that involves three different local authorities and so Finsbury Park too often falls between the cracks. We have got the political will for the first time ever now to make this happen.”

The Highbury West cllr even threatened the owner of the derelict Sir George Robey pub with action if they fail to do anything with the site - seen as key to the regeneration.

In what Cllr Hull described as the “nuclear option”, Islington Council could force the current owners to sell it to them under a Compulsory Purchase Order which would see the local authority transform it into affordable housing.

Cllr Hull added: “I’m determined we should deliver on all of this and I’m happy to be held to account on it.

“Finsbury Park has huge potential with amazing transport connections and a vibrant voluntary sector, a very diverse local community and now has an impressive art scene with the new Park Theatre.

“We want to see more than just the payday loan companies, pawn-brokers, chicken and gambling shops.

“There’s too many of them and inward investment should create more of a variety so we don’t see more of them. More of those types of shops is not what Finsbury Park needs.”

Hackney and Haringey Councils had no statement on their roles as the Gazette went to press.

Visit www.islington.gov.uk/finsburypark to have your say on the consultation which is open until August 12.